Directed by Paul Greengrass, “The Mission”, available on Netflix, stars Tom Hanks in his first western. At his side, Helena Zengel, 12, gives him the answer. A young talent who already has everything a great.
Helena Zengel will not have waited long before making a name for herself. Aged 12, the young Berliner is preparing to celebrate her 7-year career. With no more than 3 films to her credit and a few projects on television, she entered the international cinema scene with La Mission, a new feature film by Paul Greengrass. The director and documentary maker, known for his political works and his films from the Jason Bourne saga, radically changes universe to venture into the western. Tom Hanks takes on the main role alongside the actress who has her first Hollywood project there.
Helena Zengel owes this meteoric rise to her performance in Nora Fingscheidt’s drama Benni, entitled Systemsprenger in the original version – “the one that destroys the system” in French. Released on the occasion of the reopening of French cinemas in June 2020, the film tells the story of a little girl suffering from behavioral disorders. Powerful, visceral and touching, the actress reveals herself. It receives numerous distinctions, including the Deutsche Filmpreis, the equivalent of the César in Germany.
It was thanks to Benni that Paul Greengrass turned to her. Gail Mutrux, one of the producers of Universal, asked her to see the film to gauge the actress’ talent and the response was immediate: “I found it shiny and beautiful in it, with a lot of nuances “, explains the filmmaker in an interview with critic Thelma Adams. It was the most obvious casting choice. ” In an interview led by screenwriter Billy Ray, Helena Zengel realizes her chance: “For a German actress, Hollywood is a difficult goal to achieve, especially at my age. So it was a dream when I read the script.“
In the film, she plays Johanna, a character who speaks little and who must express her emotions through her face. An additional difficulty. She also had to learn some basics of Kiowa, a Native American language. “When you go to Google, you will not have a translation because no one speaks this language anymore.“, she specifies. Far from being impressed by Tom Hanks during the filming, she even admits that she did not know”that it was also important“. Enough to simplify their collaboration, the authenticity of which can be seen on screen. Recently, Helena Zengel signed for the CAA, one of the biggest Hollywood artistic agencies. Other projects await her. The mission should only be the start of a great career in the world.
Check out the trailer for “The Mission”: